45 Entrepreneurs Share Advice: Been There, Run That

Red and blue fishes

It’s not possible to list all of Kay Koplovitz’s achievements, but here are a few highlights:

  • She is the Founder of USA Network.
  • She created the business model for cable networks.
  • She launched the Sci-Fi Channel in 1992.
  • She is the co-founder and chairman of Springboard Enterprises.
  • She was appointed by Bill Clinton to the bipartisan National Women’s Business Council.
  • She has served on numerous corporate boards ranging from Nabisco to Oracle.

So, after reading her recent book, Been There, Run That, I jumped at the opportunity to ask her some questions about her unbelievable career. Been There, Run That includes writing from 45 entrepreneurs who share wisdom on building and launching new ventures.

 

“Creating open teamwork is the best way to encourage innovation.” -Kay Koplovitz

 

Trailblazing through Innovation

Kay, I want to start by saying that I think of you as a business leader.  Your track record and results speak loudly.  But, I am reminded that you’re the first woman to found and serve as president of a cable network, and that makes you an inspiration to many women.  What unique challenges did you face as a woman?

More important than becoming the first women to head a television network, I created the business model for cable program networks, which is based on two revenue streams: advertising and licensing. It reversed the TV model of paying television stations to carry network programs. We collected a fee from the cable systems and also sold advertising. This is the reason so many cable program networks have been successful.

In many ways, you were trailblazing a path, opening up doors for women behind you.  Were you cognizant of that at the time?

Absolutely, and I believe I was a leader for men in the industry as well, as I preceded most of them. Throughout my career, I tried to provide opportunities for women to move up the management ladder. I co-founded Women in Cable, now Women in Cable and Telecommunications, to provide management training and the opportunity to learn to be great general managers. Today, WICT is one of the best training organizations in the industry.

After USA Networks, you turned to venture capital and found that over 95% of venture capitalists were men.  What have you done about this?

I co-founded Springboard Enterprises, a non-profit accelerator for women-led companies in technology and life sciences, in 2000. We are seeking to level the playing field for women-led businesses that need to raise venture capital. As of yearend 2014, we have brought 562 companies to market, 83% of which raise capital and 80% are in business today. Collectively they have raised over $6.6 billion, and 35% have had liquidity events, including 11 IPO’s. Readers can gain great insight from the advice of these wonderful entrepreneurs who contributed to Been There, Run That.

My two partners and I also are launching a for-profit Springboard Fund to invest in companies completing the accelerator program. We have many great companies: Constant Contact, iRobot, Zipcar, Minute Clinic, Viacord, and many more.

What’s the best way to encourage innovation throughout a large organization?

Creating open teamwork is the best way to encourage innovation. Give people permission to experiment by offering them both responsibility and authority to break rules for creative destruction and innovation.

 

“Invest in creating the right culture and you won’t be disappointed in the results.” -Kay Koplovitz

How Belief Writes Your Leadership Story

Belief sign with a beautiful day
This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen, author of A Story Worth Telling just released from Abingdon Press. A writer, speaker, and content strategist, he blogs at Patheos and Faithwalkers where he helps people live an authentic life. Follow him on Twitter.

Belief is the Key Ingredient

Every day you lead, you are writing a story. You don’t have to be a writer or even put pen to paper to make it a good one. But you do need one key ingredient: belief.

Regardless of your beliefs about spiritual matters, your leadership legacy will be determined by your faith. By faith I don’t mean going to church or engaging in religious rituals, as important as those practices may or may not be to us. I simply mean doing what we believe to be true, often in spite of what we see, sense, or feel.

????????????????????????????????????What we believe to be true determines what we do. And what we do is what gets results. Our motion reveals our devotion to what we believe to be true.

The entrepreneur who launches a new business believes in the product or service the new venture will provide. The CEO who initiates change believes she knows where the market is headed and how the company can best prepare to capitalize on it. The individual who steps away from a comfortable career to tackle a new challenge does so because he believes a better story is possible.

If we want lasting results from our leadership — results that get talked about long after we’re gone — we must start with understanding how what we believe to be true writes our leadership story.

 

“Your leadership legacy will be determined by your faith.” -Bill Blankschaen

 

6 Critical Things Belief Does for Our Leadership

1. Belief gives clarity to our mission.

My new book, A Story Worth Telling: Your Field Guide to Living an Authentic Life, shares several stories of ordinary people who stepped out to fulfill their dreams because they believed it was the right thing to do. They believed their story could have value, so they began a quest to achieve a specific end. When we know what we value, we find our way toward it. Roy Disney, a man who knew a thing or two about making tough decisions, said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” -Roy Disney

 

2. Belief gives direction to our team.

The direction derived from belief doesn’t only help us as individuals, it also guides everyone we influence. As Jack Trout said, “At the end of the day, people follow those who know where they’re going.” If you don’t know what you believe to be true, you’ll tend to drift wherever other forces take you. Drifting never inspired anyone to do anything but walk away. However, what you believe to be true will have consequences for your team — so choose wisely.

“At the end of the day, people follow those who know where they’re going.” -Jack Trout

 

3. Belief inspires us to act courageously.

Are You Building a Bridge or Digging a Gulf?

Bridge across Irrawady river (Myanmar)

Bridge Builders

Last year, I was at lunch with an extraordinary networker.  Almost everyone passing our table would stop and say hello.  I don’t think there was a single person in the restaurant who didn’t know her.  It wasn’t superficial either.  I watched with great respect for her ability to recall details of the person’s family.  She would ask questions about health issues, about family members, about friends.

It’s no wonder that people call her for connections. Her list of friends seems to have no end.

 

“Language designed to impress builds a gulf. Language to express builds a bridge.” -Jim Rohn

 

Fast forward to a different day, a different scene, and a different person.  This time I was observing a business meeting.  One of the men had an incredible ability to build rapport.  He was reaching people on an emotional level.  His ability to quickly build trust was amazing.  Two people would argue and he would synthesize the arguments and find common ground between them.

Both of these people are bridge builders. They are able to build connections with people. Because of that, they radiate positivity, success, and confidence.

 

Gulf Diggers

Contrast this with people who are divisive and negative.  They seem to repel people and not even know it.  Instead of building bridges, they create gulfs.  Many people say not to discuss politics or religion because the topics can be divisive.  I have never followed this advice and find it easy to discuss sensitive topics.  Why?  Because I am genuinely interested in people’s beliefs and opinions.  That’s how I learn. The key is to do it with respect and to borrow techniques from the world’s greatest bridge builders.

“Got it,” you think, “negative versus positive.” Not so fast.

 

Driving Others Away

Some people who build gulfs are actually unknowingly repelling people in a different way. 

7 Steps to Improve Your Character Habit

build habits reminder - self-development concept - handwriting o

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Fred Kiel, the author of Return on Character: The Real Reasons Leaders and Their Companies Win.  His extensive research provides data that proves that character matters.  That same research also indicated that much of the character habits of the world’s best, virtuous leaders are formed in childhood.  Fred offers seven steps to improve your character habits.

Improving Character

It absolutely is possible to improve Return on Character (“ROC”) and raise your character reputation scores.  Your character habits are just that – habits.  And as such, they can be changed.  We all have some personal experience in changing our habits.  Sometimes it’s quite difficult, but it can be done.

We’ve isolated seven steps that work to improve your character habits:

1. Pop the Bubble

The first step you need to take to strengthen your character habits is to get real!  We all live in our own “bubble” – our version of ourselves.  Unfortunately, our view of ourselves is often wrong – we tend to believe our own press.  Everyone rates themselves as having a strong character – we see ourselves as principled people.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” -Confucius

 

2. Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Be brutally honest with yourself.  You have acquired your character habits because at some point in your life, they were very beneficial. But in all likelihood, some of the habits learned long ago are now more costly than beneficial.


“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” –Sigmund Freud

 

3. Find the Fuel

The only way you’ll go the next step in changing your character is if you believe that the cost of your current habit outweighs the benefit.  You must find the “fuel rod” that will energize you enough to acquire a new habit.

“What keeps me going is goals.” -Muhammad Ali

 

4. Now, Write it Down

The important thing now is to write down what you’ve decided from your cost-benefit analysis.  If you can’t write it down and provide a convincing argument about why you should change, you’re just living in la-la land.  You won’t change anything about your character habits.

“If you do not write it down, you have a wish, not a goal.” -Steve Maraboli

 

5. Focus Your Attention

The Real Reason Leaders Win: Return on Character

Blue Books Graph With Red Arrow

Cash or Character?

Not too long ago, I was asked to give a talk about organizational culture and why it matters. Before I walked up to the podium, one of the attendees cornered me. He wanted me to know his strongly-held position. In an emphatic tone, he nearly shouted:

“Skip, cash matters, not culture, not character, not creativity! Cash is the only thing you can spend.”

How fortunate that my slides started with financials so I could demonstrate the power of culture change. But, what I wish I had was the book that crossed my desk a few weeks ago:  Return on Character: The Real Reasons Leaders and Their Companies Win.  In the most comprehensive study of its kind, Fred Kiel reveals the research that proves that good character wins. We discussed his findings at length and I know many organizational leaders will want to study the results.

 

“Character is the tree. Reputation is its shadow.” -Lincoln

 

 

Studying CEO’s

Tell us just briefly about your study and its methodology. Where did you get the idea, how many CEO’s were involved, etc.?

ROC CoverIn 2005 I and my co-author, Doug Lennick, published a book entitled Moral Intelligence in which we claimed that highly principled leaders obtained better long-term business results than leaders who were not so principled.  The book has done very well, but shortly after it was published we received some pushback. One person said, “Fred, I know you like all of this soft stuff.  But let me give you a little lesson in economics.  The business model is what creates value.  If a business is profitable and makes a lot of money, all that culture stuff will come along with it.  And if it doesn’t, that’s not a big deal as long as management stays legal.  What you talk about is just icing on the cake.  It’s nice but not necessary.  And, besides you don’t have any hard data to back up your claim.”

This really got to me.  He was right about me not having any data to back up our claim that character matters – and that became the call to action for our study.

Over the next seven years we signed up 121 CEOs and their senior teams to participate.  Eighty-four completed the study, so we have complete data sets on these 84 CEOs, their senior teams, and their organizations.  Over 8,500 randomly selected employees completed our surveys about these CEOs and their teams.  We have nearly one million separate data points in our research base.  This is the largest study of this kind to date.

 

4 Universal Character Habits

How do you define character in the Return on Character (ROC) matrix?

We scoured the cultural anthropology research and discovered that humans all over the world share many common practices and beliefs.  Parents all over the world teach their children to tell the truth, keep promises, own up to mistakes, forgive others, and to care for people – at least in their tribe.  We added to this understanding the recent findings from the neurosciences and genetics to come up with our definition of character as it applies to leaders.

The ROC Matrix shows the four universal principles and the character habits that are aligned with these principles.

 

Copyright Fred Kiel; Used by Permission Copyright Fred Kiel; Used by Permission

Lincoln said, “Character is the tree.  Reputation is its shadow.”  Likewise, the habits we all have for how we treat other people is our character reputation.  That’s what we measured in our research – a leader’s reputation for how he or she treats people.

 

Probing the Leader’s Childhood

In several places in the book, you delve into the CEO’s childhood and upbringing.  Why?  What did you find?  Why is the CEO’s life story so important?

If you took the resumes and employment histories of high character CEOs and compared them to low character CEOs, you’d be hard pressed to see much difference. Both groups are competitive, driven to succeed, rational, high energy, and often wicked smart – they know how to command a room and nail an interview.

Where we started to see significant differences was when we surveyed their employees and asked about their behaviors around the 4 universal character habits – integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion. So that begs the question – how did each group come by their different postures around these habits? Where did they get their beliefs about how the world worked and how to succeed in that world?

Turns out the clues are in their childhoods and upbringing.